Gupkaris’ balloon punctured
Prof Hari Om
Voting in three of the eight-phase first-ever elections in UT of J&K to elect 10 District Development Councils (DDCs) in Jammu province and 10 in Kashmir is over. Significantly, the voting percentage increased in Jammu province and decreased in Kashmir with each passing phase.
Jammu witnessed 64 per cent polling in the 18 territorial constituencies during the first phase on November 29, 65.5 per cent in the equal number of territorial constituencies during the second phase on December 1 and 68.88 per cent in the 17 territorial constituencies during the third phase on December 4.
In contrast, Kashmir witnessed 36 per cent polling in 25 territorial constituencies during the first phase, 33.3 per cent in the equal number of territorial constituencies during the second phase and 31.61 per cent polling in 16 territorial constituencies during the third phase.
So far, voters in 66 territorial constituencies have exercised their right to vote in Kashmir. As for Jammu province, voters exercised their right to vote in 53 territorial constituencies – 13 territorial constituencies less than Kashmir.
This low voter turnout in Kashmir was despite the appeals made repeatedly by the seditious Gupkaris to Kashmiri voters that they must come out in large numbers and vote overwhelmingly for Gupkari candidates. The Gupkaris, including Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Sajad Lone, had been telling the Kashmiri voters since day one that DDC elections were an opportunity for them to express themselves against the revocation of Article 35A, Article 370 and J&K’s separate status, separation of Ladakh from the erstwhile J&K State, conversion of Ladakh and the leftover J&K into Union Territories, new land laws, domicile rules/citizenship rules and what they called concerted moves of Narendra Modi Government to change the Muslim-majority character of Kashmir and implement the RSS agenda in the Valley. The upshot of their whole argument was that votes of Kashmiris in the DDC polls for the Gupkari candidates will be a vote for the restoration of the pre-August 2019 politico-administrative and constitutional status in J&K.
The 2.7 per cent decline in the voting percentage in Kashmir during the second phase must have rattled the Gupkaris. That was the reason that on the eve of the third phase of polling two leading Gupkaris – Omar Abdullah and Sajad Lone – came out to motivate the Kashmiri voters to vote in large numbers in the remaining six phases of the DDC polls. They once again made passionate appeals to the Kashmiri voters to exercise their franchise to the maximum extent, vote only for the Gupkari candidates and strengthen the hands of the Farooq Abdullah-led People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) so that it could retrieve what was ‘snatched by PM Narendra Modi and HM Amit Shah in August 2019’.
On December 3, the disturbed Omar Abdullah claimed that the Gupkari (People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration) candidates ‘were getting unprecedented support’ and urged the Kashmiri electorate to ‘elect only the PAGD candidates to fight for their rights’. ‘There is no question of double speak about supporting the best candidates and to fight to restore what we have lost are the PAGD candidates,’ Omar Abdullah said while addressing a meet of central zone functionaries at the illegally constructed Nawa-e-Suhah, Srinagar.
The same day, the PAGD spokesperson Sajad Lone stated that the ‘PAGD was made for larger public interest’. ‘When at the top-level the leaders have come under one banner keeping aside their difference, it is high time for voters now to show unity at grassroots and cast vote in favour of PAGD candidates. Confusion is being created about PAGD, but people are mature enough and they will keep at bay the communal forces,” Lone said while addressing a workers’ convention at Zachaldara village of Handwara in Kupwara district.
Did Omar Abdullah and Sajad Lone carry conviction with Kashmiri voters or did they succeed in inducing Kashmiri voters to come out in large numbers to vote for the Gupkari candidates? The answer is a big NO. The fact of the matter is that while the voting percentage during the second phase of polling in Kashmir was 33.3 per cent, it was 31.61 per cent during the third phase of polling in the Valley. In other words, the voting percentage further fell by almost two percent.
What does all this suggest? The declining voting percentage in Kashmir suggests that the Gupkaris have lost their sheen and appeal. It also suggests that Kashmiri voters hardly trust the unscrupulous, power-hungry, opportunist and ideologically bankrupt Gupkari leadership. But more than that, the low voter turnout has punctured the Gupkaris’ balloon.
It would not be out of place to mention here that Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Sajad Lone have till date not addressed a single election rally in Kashmir. Why? Obviously, they are not in a position to face Kashmiri people for reasons not really difficult to fathom.